Jihad, Cancer, and World War III
We are engaged in a third world war without knowing it. Unlike the 20th century wars, it is sprinkled across the globe in relatively small sets of scattered battles. World Wars I and II changed the ways of fighting, and the 21st century version requires still another approach to battling the enemy, like fighting cancers – related but somewhat various diseases that strike different organs. The tumors can be cut away and diminished, but the disease won’t be eradicated until we find a cure.”Ž
To do that, we must stay informed. Terrorism’s manifestations are not “pure evil’ and we can identify their motives. Groups like IS and Hamas are not all that different from other threats we face. They are more radical and publicly violent, but their essential positions parallel those of Middle Eastern nations like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
Vice President Joe Biden was right when he made that point, and his later apologies are irrelevant. Turkey, armed and ready, watched IS attack Kurds near its Syrian border. Turkey supplies weapons to some IS-related groups in the Syrian war. Some argue that America’s other Muslim Middle Eastern allies also share sympathies with terrorist groups.
The threat isn’t from IS alone. Hamas and its competing and allied terrorists in Gaza, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and others have been somewhat degraded. At great cost, they can be destroyed – but as long as others share their values, new threats will materialize. With American help, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Somalia are fighting the disease, but the battles that are part of the wider war still rage on. America has been struggling with it in Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than a decade now.
With coordinated air attacks and trained spotters on the ground to direct bombings and missile strikes, with some Sunni tribal help, and with Kurdish and better trained Iraqi troops on the ground in Iraq, IS can be tamped down. But fundamentalist Islamic terror, for now an incurable illness, will rise again.
Violent Islamic fundamentalists are motivated by both their faith and jealousy to kill people they simultaneously regard as a superior and inferior. That may not be rational, but it is their motivation, and an understandable one.
Understanding that motivation is crucial for those who want to defeat terrorism. It traces back to Muhammad, who – after the Banu Qurayza, a Jewish tribe in Yathrib, surrendered in what is present day Medina – beheaded all the male members, enslaving the women and children. Boko Haram can point back to that precedent as direct inspiration. Indeed, some Middle Eastern states have used such precedents to justify their own beheadings and mutilations.
Salafist IS is only the most ostentatiously savage of current terrorists. Crucifixions, live burials, and severed heads are effective advertisements – striking dread into opponents, winning new members among admirers, and regarded as moral by other Salafist groups. We must go on fighting and winning the small battles of World War III until, with the aid of respected Islamic scholars and religious leaders, we find a way of convincing a sufficient number of the radical fundamentalist Muslims that Islam has evolved. At that point, the scattered battles of World War III will be reduced to brush fires that local groups can handle.